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Brainerd City Council: Assessment guidelines set for Buffalo Hills Lane project

Another chapter in the ongoing saga surrounding Buffalo Hills Lane is complete--namely, a market study of adjoining properties along Buffalo Hills Lane, which indicates a clearer picture of how property owners will be assessed when construction s...

The Brainerd City Council voted unanimously Monday, March 18, to authorize a property assessment rate methodology for the Buffalo Hills Lane reconstruction project. The proposed project has been the subject of numerous discussions and heated public hearings. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch
The Brainerd City Council voted unanimously Monday, March 18, to authorize a property assessment rate methodology for the Buffalo Hills Lane reconstruction project. The proposed project has been the subject of numerous discussions and heated public hearings. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

Another chapter in the ongoing saga surrounding Buffalo Hills Lane is complete-namely, a market study of adjoining properties along Buffalo Hills Lane, which indicates a clearer picture of how property owners will be assessed when construction starts.

After years of debate, heated public hearings and experts poring over logistics, city staffers presented a revised assessment methodology for the estimated $900,000 Buffalo Hills Lane reconstruction project to the Brainerd City Council Monday, March 18. Council members unanimously authorized the resultant methodology.

"That's what we're trying to get here-how do we come to an equitable solution so that properties that aren't similar aren't being assessed at the same amount?" said City Engineer Paul Sandy, who noted the city's analysis and the study's results lined up well. "If you live directly on Buffalo Hills Lane, you'll get a base assessment rate of $4,000. If you live indirectly next to Buffalo Hills Lane, you'll have a base assessment of $1,500."

Breakdown of methodology

Originally, the city looked to assess 100 percent of reconstruction costs to parcels that would benefit and adjoin Buffalo Hills Lane and/or Mississippi Drive. This was later revised to a 50 percent assessment-which factored into the final methodology. Per the recommendation of Sandy, the city then opted to hire a private appraiser, Nagell Appraisal & Consulting, to conduct a market study of the adjoining properties.

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The study was prompted, in part, Sandy said, by feedback from a duo of heated public forums on the proposed Buffalo Hills Lane project. Sandy characterized the report as a means to demonstrate the appraisal methodology and, in doing so, address concerns by residents opposed to the project.

According to the report by Nagell, adjoining properties checked nine of the 16 categories in terms of potential improvements and property value increases tied with reconstructed infrastructure-everything from visual attractiveness and pedestrian safety, to new developments.

The following is a run-down of the estimated market benefits from the reconstruction for six different groupings presented by Nagell to the city:

• For a single-family property without a driveway to or frontage facing the Buffalo Hills Lane, estimated benefits hover at $800 to $2,000.

• Single-family lots without a driveway attached to Buffalo Hills Lane, but rear and side frontage facing the road, could see $1,500 to $4,000 in increased value.

• In the case of single-family plats with a driveway to Buffalo Hills Lane and the front of the property facing the aforementioned road, market value increases could fall between $6,000 to $12,000.

• For vacant residential lots with no direct driveway or frontage to Buffalo Hills Lane, benefits are projected to be $500 to $1,500 per lot.

• With vacant residential properties with no driveways to Buffalo Hills Lane, but rear or side frontage facing the road, benefits could hover between $800 to $3,000.

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• In the case of vacant residential properties featuring driveways and the face of the property toward Buffalo Hills Lane, expected market value increases sit between $2,000 to $4,000.

• For raw/empty land parcels in proximity to the project, increases would be 1 to 3 cents per square foot.

Using that information, city staff presented the council with recommendations for assessment rate methodologies based on the location and composition of each property:

• In terms of base assessments, properties without driveways attached to Buffalo Hills Lane should see a rate of $1,500, while properties with a direct driveway should see a rate of $4,000.

• If an original lot is split up or combined, the final assessment rate will be based on accounting for these splits or combinations.

• If the property is vacant or habitated, the assessment rate will be halved if no people are living there, but remain as is if the property is inhabited by a single family.

• The rate will be halved if the property has another access point attached to a different roadway. The rate will stay the same if the property can only be accessed via Buffalo Hills Lane or Mississippi Drive.

• For side/rear yard access, there will be a base rate of $1,500 because there isn't a driveway attached to Buffalo Hills Lane there or Mississippi Drive. However, the rate will be doubled if the property has a driveway attached to Buffalo Hills Lane or Mississippi Drive.

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What's next?

Sandy noted the city is set to launch the project during the next Brainerd City Council meeting April 1, when members will look to authorize feasibility studies, vote on the project itself and direct staff to send out notices to property owners.

A rendering of the properties and parcels affected by the Buffalo Hills Lane reconstruction project. Courtesy of the city of Brainerd.
A rendering of the properties and parcels affected by the Buffalo Hills Lane reconstruction project. Courtesy of the city of Brainerd. Click on the image to see the entire graphic.

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